Echoing a common theme seen among guests of the AI in Accounting Podcast, Caleb Jenkins started to learn accounting at a very young age. Growing up a few steps away from his father’s accounting practice, Caleb began using QuickBooks Desktop at age 9 to track his lawn-mowing and cherry-sales ventures.
And here’s a fun fact: Caleb has been a QuickBooks ProAdvisor since age 16, becoming the youngest QuickBooks ProAdvisor in the global ProAdvisor program.
Caleb’s been recognized as a Top 10 QuickBooks ProAdvisor (Insightful Accountant), served as an Intuit Trainer/Writer Network member, and on the Intuit ProConnect Customer Tax Council.
In this podcast episode, Caleb shares his favorite QuickBooks Online (QBO) tips for beginners and power users, cautions against some of the biggest mistakes QuickBooks Online users inadvertently make, and predicts where both QuickBooks Online and the accounting industry as a whole are headed in the coming years.
In this podcast episode, you'll learn how to:
- Get more out of bank feeds
- Create rules to automate
- Customize and automatically send out reports
- Research apps that solve business problems for your accounting practice and your clients’ companies
- Search within the register to eliminate reconciliation discrepancies
- Batch reclassify to fix miscategorized transactions
- Filter transactions with no status
- Spot a story trend line
- Use automation tools to eliminate data entry
Watch the Podcast Interview
Listen to the Podcast Interview
Caleb Jenkins’s advice on QuickBooks Online is also featured in QuickBooks Online and the Emerging Outsourced Accounting Practice [Download the Free eBook]. Highlights include:
- Caleb currently leads the outsourced tax planning and business accounting services team at RLJ Financial Services and has been a QuickBooks ProAdvisor since age 16.
- Caleb Jenkins says the majority of RLJ Financial’s client base is virtual and uses QBO. Their fully outsourced accounting practice offers taxes, outsourced payroll, and wealth management for agriculture and healthcare professional services. “About 60-65% of our clientele is local, and about 30-35% is based throughout the US. We have clients in about 25 different states for whom we file different state income tax returns, and we have fairly good representation throughout the US.”
- Caleb Jenkins learned QuickBooks Desktop and QBO while still a teenager: “I got really familiar with QuickBooks Desktop and did a little bit of education training but primarily dug in and learned it myself. I got proficient and quick at it and began answering people's questions. If I didn't know the answer, then I would research it, find the answer, call QuickBooks support, and get the solution,” says Caleb, who continues to be a software resource for his clients.
- Users will find lots of new features, and ProAdvisors can help users navigate the new terrain. Although not a huge issue, the QBO layout may be confusing, notes Caleb Jenkins: “People converting from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online may have issues with the register because it's not as readily accessible on the homepage, so people wonder where it is. But overall, QBO is a gem compared to QuickBooks Desktop.”
- Caleb Jenkins agrees that bank feeds are critical, but few firms use them: “It's astonishing to hear from QuickBooks how few companies use the bank feeds. It is a huge feature that can eliminate and automate a good chunk of your data workflow, including banking and credit card transactions.” By bringing in the date, amount, and vendor name, users can create rules to automate the transaction. “It’s the #1 feature to eliminate manual entry and automate or semi‑automate the reconciliation process at the end of the month,” Caleb says.
- Caleb Jenkins shared that his firm does a lot of app research: “We like to see what’s out there. I work directly with app providers to create the best solution,” he shared. Apps are a central part of accounting software that helps reduce or eliminate time-consuming data entry.
- “Ultimately, you’ll want to create an app tech stack for your firm, so you can avoid using a unique app for every client,” says Caleb Jenkins. “Create a strategy around a couple of different apps that really fit your workflow, your clients, and your business. You’ll only have to stay up-to-date on one app solution, but you should assign someone to oversee new apps that fit your business.”
- “If you have items that reoccur every month, like monthly subscription fees, use QBO’s ability to set up those transactions and automatically post to the general ledger without manual data entry,” advises Caleb Jenkins.
- Caleb Jenkins recommends using the report customization features: “Go into your report, customize it, save your customizations, put it into a group of reports, and then click Edit on the reports and set that batch of reports to auto-send on a recurring basis. Your frustration with sending reports to your clients is over.” He recommends that business owners use the same trick to send weekly customized AR reports to their inbox.
- Caleb Jenkins also looks for visual ways to report trends: “Display the columns by month or by corridor, and you can see a long‑running history year by year, side by side, or with another custom layout. It is a powerful way to spot a story trend revealed in the numbers as they increase or decrease. It’s a really powerful way to spot problems, errors, and trends. You can also segment your reports by a subset of data to home in on specific information,” he advises.
- Caleb Jenkins considers QBO’s sorting and filtering capabilities to be far superior to its desktop predecessor: “Mostly everything is built on tables, including the customer list, vendor list, and transaction list. You can sort by any of the header items, or you can filter and search within the filter to find what you're looking for,” he says.
- “Within the Accountant Tools, there are a whole list of tools, like Batch Reclassify," notes Caleb Jenkins. This feature is helpful for misclassified expenses that need to be recategorized to the right account. “By accessing the Expenses tab on the sidebar and clicking on the Transactions tab, you will see a list of all your expense transactions. Select the transactions that need reclassification or view which ones are lacking receipts,” he said. You can also use this feature to identify duplicate transactions or transactions without a status. This powerful filtering mechanism makes it easier for users to identify, reclassify, and clean up their expenses and bank feeds.
- Caleb Jenkins suggests that users should keep an eye on bank transfers since QBO doesn’t handle bank transfers appropriately. “QBO adds transactions that are transfers between bank accounts (or what QuickBooks just assumes is a transfer). It goes in as a transfer option and then goes to an uncategorized asset or elsewhere, and then somebody tries to fix it.”
- “The problem is it goes back and unreconciles both sides of the transaction, and then you look at your reconciliation and wonder what’s wrong. It’s not there, or it says you deleted the transaction, but it's already in your books because you went back to your bank feed and re‑added it,” says Caleb Jenkins. To correct this, Caleb recommends going to the register on the account, filtering for the amount, and marking the transaction as reconciled again. This will eliminate the reconciliation discrepancy and update the history.
- Technology is eliminating data entry, thereby making room for outsourced accountants to play an advisory role in their clients’ businesses. Getting to that level means you will have to free yourself from the back office and get to the boardroom. Advises Caleb Jenkins, “We must implement automation tools to eliminate manual data entry and make sure it's up-to-date and occurring in real‑time. Only then can we shift into an advisory role with our clients. We’ll get to be the Sherpa that guides them to their end goal,” says Caleb. “There are tax changes, business changes, and cash-flow challenges. We have to help them with all those issues.” Technology issues, business issues, and planning for future challenges are also part of the advisory role.
A lightly-edited transcript follows below:
Caleb Jenkins (00:00):
And set that batch of reports to auto-send out on a recurring basis. So make that every week, every month, every whatever. You can set it on the 15th of every month to give you time, to get all your books reconciled completed, and etc.: A piece of cake. Now, that frustration of getting reports sent out to your clients is done. You don't have to worry about it. You can set that and forget it.
Podcast Announcer (00:27):
Welcome to the AI in Accounting Podcast. Now here's your host, Joshua Feinberg of Vic.ai.
Joshua Feinberg (00:39):
So I am here with Caleb Jenkins from RLJ Financial accounting firm based in Northern California. Thanks so much for agreeing to come on the podcast with me.
Yeah, thanks for having me on, Josh.
So, where I usually like to start first in these interviews is to have our listeners understand how you got to where you are, how RLJ financial is built, and how you see yourself fitting into the broader industry. And also what your journey was that took you to your place in your firm.
Caleb Jenkins (01:40):
I started here in 2009. My dad started the firm back in 1986. And so I grew up in this space. His office for the first two years of my life was a separate office at our home location. So I grew up in it. I was out in the office all the time, helping shred, file papers, and do various things in the younger years of life. It was a natural fit for me. So I was interested in computers, and I started tracking my own stuff on QuickBooks from a fairly early age, around eight or nine. I did that out of curiosity to keep track of everything for my personal records. And then, I had a number of different self-employed projects that I did to bake cookies for my dad's company. And then mowed lawns for people, and I had a cherry stand out a busy road down from where we lived. I tracked all that inside of QuickBooks too.
Caleb Jenkins (02:38):
I got started here, like I said, in early 2009. And I got started primarily just in QuickBooks. So in that timeframe, it was primarily, if not completely, desktop. We became really familiar with QuickBooks Desktop, and I did a little bit of education training on that, but, basically, just dug in and learned it. I got fairly proficient at it, I would say, fairly quickly, and started answering people's questions, the client’s questions, as they came through. If I didn't know the answer, I would research it, find out the answer, call QuickBooks, get the solution, whatever, and then replicate that. I learned a lot through that. Got fairly advanced inside QuickBooks Desktop, but then around the 2012 timeframe, we got a couple of clients who had QuickBooks Online already.
Caleb Jenkins (03:50):
I started to get familiar with that. And I learned that originally in the early days, I liked the concept of QuickBooks Online a lot, but I wasn't a huge fan of the actual product. But around the timeframe of their, they called it harmony project, which redesigned the whole layout and interface of QuickBooks Online, I got really familiar and I loved the new concept of QuickBooks Online. And we started bringing a lot of clients on. We've got a good chunk of our client base today is on QuickBooks Online. Our firm here, we are fully outsourced accounting firms. So we do taxes for small business clients and the outsourced accounting payroll. And then we're also doing wealth management. So all of that, we primarily focus on the agricultural clients in the area.
Caleb Jenkins (04:55):
So that'd be a lot of one-up farmers and a lot of almond farmers. And then we would have a lot of healthcare professionals, so small family physicians and dentists and specialists in the area. We also do a lot of work throughout the US; we've probably got about 60% to 65% of our local clientele. And then about 30, 35% is throughout the U.S. We probably have clients in about 30, 25 different states. We filed different state income tax returns for that. At least that's how I would measure it. We've got a fairly good representation throughout the US. So just a little bit about what our firm does and what I do today; I do a lot of managing and overseeing what we're doing from our outsourced accounting.
Caleb Jenkins (05:58):
I've got a couple of people that I would oversee on what we're doing there. And then we also do a lot of app research, seeing what's out there. I work with several different apps on helping them with their solution. And then I do a lot in the tax space. Researching tax solutions and tax strategies to help our small business clients, and then business consulting, helping our small business clients succeed. That's really at a surface level. What I would say my job role is that there's a lot of smaller details in the middle of all of that, but that's what I would say publicly is my primary role.
Joshua Feinberg (06:51):
So it sounds like there are 11 years of industry experience, and there's possibly another 10 or 11 years of free industry experience of getting to grow up in this. I grew up in this environment.
Caleb Jenkins (07:03):
Oh yeah. So I'm unique--I would say I've benefited from that.
Joshua Feinberg (07:12):
My dad was only in public accounting for a couple of years. He spent most of his career as a controller in retail and mail order companies. But because of that, when I had a paper route as a kid, I was probably the only one in town who had an accounts receivable sub-ledger tying out to cash. Valuable to learn. Yep. All good. All good life lessons. So what I wanted to talk with you primarily about today is your favorite tips for getting more value out of QuickBooks Online. And the first place I want to start is to get your take for what you would tell somebody who's brand new to QBO, maybe somebody that you've recently hired on your team. Someone who has never worked with QBO before. I know you've got a lot from someone that you've met at a conference. I’m curious to get your advice on how to hit the ground running.
QuickBooks Online Tips for Beginners
Caleb Jenkins (07:59):
Yup. So number one, a feature to get the most bang out of your buck is to use bank feeds inside QuickBooks Online. So it's astonishing hearing from QuickBooks, how few companies use the bank feeds. And that is a huge feature that can eliminate and automate a good chunk of your data workflow. So all of your banking transactions or credit card transactions, etc. we can bring in the data, the amount, the vendor name, and et cetera. We can create rules to automate some of the front sides of the transaction. I would say that’s the number one feature to eliminate the manual entry and semi-automate the reconciliation process at the end of the month. The second thing I would say is to start looking at apps. Go to the QuickBooks App store and take a look at some of the apps, and implement some, say, receipt apps, or implement an accounts receivable app, account payable app, or whatever the area of frustration is, and start there and implement that. Then start thinking of a broader credit strategy around a couple of different apps that fit your workflow and fit what you're trying to accomplish.
Caleb Jenkins (09:29):
And as a small business owner, what you're trying to do as an accounting firm, what you're trying to do with your clients, and what I also recommend is creating your consolidated stack of apps that you're working with. They're not doing a different app for every single client. For the expense solution, whatever I could use as expenses on some clients, I could use a receipt bank on some clients that could use auto entry and some clients that could use Vic.ai. I could use it on a lot of different solutions and pick the solution that best fits the majority of your clients and go with that. For you and your whole team, you only need to stay up to date with the changes in the one solution. And if you're a team of people in an accounting firm, pick a person to keep up to date with what the changes are because there are changes that happen.
Caleb Jenkins (10:33):
And eventually, you may want to switch between one solution and the next solution. Pick somebody who loves to research so that they can stay up to date with the broader scope of what's happening out there, and then they can implement accordingly and make suggestions on switching between solutions. That's probably what I would do. So again: backtracking bank feeds first. The second thing is picking an app that's fixed your workflow. And then maybe third is picking your suite of apps. The fourth thing is to create some automation in your reporting. So within QuickBooks Online, a very simple feature is to just go into your reports, customize them, save your customizations, and put them into a group of reports. Then click edit on the reports and set that batch of reports to auto-send out on a recurring basis.
Caleb Jenkins (11:39):
So make that every week, every month, every whatever. You can set it on the 15th of every month to give you time to get all your books reconciled and completed. Now, your frustration with sending reports out to your clients is done. You don't have to worry about it. You can set that and forget it for a company owner. That's really cool, too, because I can set your accounts receivable reports or your accounts payable reports to be in their inbox every morning or every Monday morning or whatever, so they know what they need to work on without ever having to open up QuickBooks. I would say those are some of the basic things within QuickBooks that are total time savers and huge wins with using QuickBooks Online. Basic things, but they save a ton of time.
Joshua Feinberg (12:39):
So bank feeds and rules, eliminate manual entry, and spend a fair amount of time on a recurring basis in the apps directory, researching new apps, testing new apps, and putting somebody in your practice in charge of owning that position of visiting the app store regularly. Think about your overall suite of apps that you're going to use to standardize. And then set up your reports, so they're sent out automatically. Yup. Cool. Other ends of the spectrum: what do you tell a power user? When you go to a lot of conferences, you probably meet a fair amount of people like yourself with five, ten years of experience using QBO. What are some of the little hidden gems that you may not get to for years?
Power User Tips for QuickBooks Online
Caleb Jenkins (13:21):
So, I mean, probably one of the biggest things people do wrong inside QuickBooks Online with bank feeds is that they add transactions that are transferred between bank accounts or what QuickBooks just assumes as a transfer. So it goes in as a transfer option, and then it goes to uncategorized assets, or it goes to somewhere else. And then somebody goes in, and they try to fix that to put it where it should be. The problem with that is it that goes back as unreconciled on both sides of the transaction. And then you're looking at your reconciliation. You're saying, well, what's wrong. Because that's not there. Or it says that you deleted the transaction, but it's already in your books because you went back to your bank feed and re-added it. All you need to do is just go to your register on that transaction on that account.
Caleb Jenkins (14:27):
And you can then mark that transaction as reconciled again. And that eliminates that reconciliation discrepancy and takes a couple of seconds. So all you have to do a search filter for inside the register to filter it for that specific amount. And then you've shrunk your whole register down to the transactions that meet that qualification, and then you can mark it as reconciled. And that updates the history of the account. It’s a very powerful way to eliminate a lot of manual data. The problem with that is the register is probably one of the things that for people converting from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online, it's not as readily accessible on the front homepage per se. A lot of people wonder where it's at, but it's a gem compared to QuickBooks Desktop. All of that sorting capabilities, the filtering capabilities, and the searching capabilities.
Caleb Jenkins (15:32):
You can't do any of that inside of QuickBooks Desktop. The other thing is just all of QuickBooks Online; most everything is built on tables. So the same thing would be on your customer list, your vendor list, your transaction list. You can sort by any of the header items, or you can filter and search within the filter to find what you're looking for. Probably one thing that I've loved historically has been replaced or fixed and updated recently with the batch reclassify. So within that accountant tool for power users, you've got a whole list of tools like the batch re-classify and et cetera, but that’s one of the things for small business owners or users; they can do that too, which can be dangerous. But it can be very helpful for them to go to the expenses tab on your sidebar and go to the transactions tab.
Caleb Jenkins (16:37):
And there's a list of all your expense transactions there. You can filter that. We can look at, say, fuel, and oil in the expense category. And we can see all the expenses, in that we can sort by the vendor for last year or this year or last month or whatever. And we can see in there that there's a Walmart transaction. Well, there shouldn't be a Walmart transaction categorized in fuel and oil. So you can select all your Walmart transactions that are coded to fuel and oil and then do a batch reclassify and change the category to be office supplies or whatever it should have been. It’s a really simple way to review your books to clean up what was miscategorized. And you can do that simply by filtering to a specific filter group category or expense category, sorting by your vendor, or sorting by your memo.
Caleb Jenkins (17:34):
You can also use that to see whether or not you have receipts on your transactions. If you've got a list of your transactions, you can sort by your receipt, and then you can see a list of the transactions. Now I can look if we can find where those receipts are from or what's missing because those receipts are important for an IRS audit. So we can now tell our clients, or a client can look at this themselves, see what's missing and what they need to do. Maybe what they need to shore up for the future. Because maybe you can't go back and find those old receipts, but now we may need to be looking for this stuff in the future.
Caleb Jenkins (18:25):
Another thing is just to eliminate our duplicated transactions. Many people wonder what the purpose is of a reconciliation inside QuickBooks Online when we've got our bank feed coming in. Reconciliation is very important. It's just a manual, a human verification that everything is accurate, especially when you've got third-party apps feeding data into QuickBooks. We've got your bank feed coming into QuickBooks, and you maybe have somebody manually entering stuff into QuickBooks, hopefully not, but maybe you do. You've got three data sources coming in your general ledger inside of QuickBooks. You might have duplicated transactions. You might have missing transactions; hopefully, not when you get your bank feed connected unless it is disconnected, which can happen. All of those can be things that require manual verification. Normally it takes a couple of seconds, but if something is unclear, target those transactions and figure out why. You can also do that, though, before you ever get to your reconciliation, registering again.
Caleb Jenkins (19:50):
You can filter it for the transactions that have no status. Those that have no status or are transactions that are fed into QuickBooks via third-party apps or transactions that are manually entered that never came through the bank feed. And so if those old transactions are duplicated, or maybe they're brand new, and they haven't come through the bank feed yet, that's fine. But that gives us a list of transactions we need to investigate. So just a couple of things there. I don't know if those are probably some basic things. The other things are just within the reports that have been added again, and you can customize them. One of the things that I see a lot of people forget or don't realize, especially my clients, is to segment reports by display the columns by month or display it by quarter or something.
Caleb Jenkins (20:53):
So you can see a long-running history, year, over year, over year, over year, side by side or whatever; it gives you a really powerful way to spot a story trend line. So if you see something going up or down, it's not a chart per se, but it's numbers. So you can see those numbers increase or decrease. And it’s a really powerful way to spot problems, spot errors, or see trend lines for your company. So displaying columns by month or by year or something, you can go in and customize your report as well. And you can filter it for a specific, smaller subset of data, like your class or your location or whatever other feed items you're adding in your data entry. You can segment your database to see a smaller subset of your data, then change a tiny little thing, change your header to display that in that name for that specific segment that you're displaying, and then save that customization; no need to go in and redo that every time. Save it so that you eliminate the creation of that report.
Caleb Jenkins (22:13):
Those would be some of the basic things that immediately come to my mind. There's probably a ton more, but that’s just some basic stuff that can save you time, give you the ability to create things, and do things powerfully.
Joshua Feinberg (22:35):
It sounds like there's just a tremendous amount that you can do by getting comfortable with using filtering and sorting and looking at trends and looking at anomalies. What is interesting, is earlier on, you mentioned the value of paying attention to third party apps, and then also the flip side with third-party apps is now we have a lot of different sources, so we have to be careful looking for duplicates. That makes a lot of sense. And then what resonated with me also was you make sure to drive home the importance of the register when people are coming over from the desktop to online. So this is all fabulous, fabulous stuff. One more quick thing I want to hit today is that in a tech company, a software company, it's almost always a product manager. They talk to the customers. They figure out what the big problems are, what to do next. You've been in an advisory role, a beta tester kind of role with many different test companies. If you think about your business stuff, you think about RLJ Financial and where things are headed in the next five years, what's the biggest opportunity that you see for a firm like yours to help their clients better?
Where QuickBooks Online and Outsourced Accounting Are Headed Next
Caleb Jenkins (23:36):
The biggest thing is making sure that we are implementing automation tools to eliminate our manual data entry, make sure that it is up to date. That it is recurring and real-time. And then shifting into an advisory role with our clients. That's specifically in areas of helping them determine where they want to go, how they're going to get there, and being a shepherd if you want to call it that, to guide them to their end goal. And we have the data behind us. We know how to get there. And in a lot of cases, we just need to get to that point where we're free from that back-office perspective and get into the boardroom, as people call it, and get into that area of actually working with them on the area that matters for them and helping them get to that point.
Caleb Jenkins (24:45):
A lot of times, accountants and bookkeepers are just seen as just getting the compliance things completed, and the value for us and our area is helping them in the future even like today. Things that have happened in the last year, or 2020 here with COVID-19, there's a lot of changes. There's a lot of tax changes. There's a lot of business changes. We've gotta be on the front side of helping them with cashflow planning. We have to be on the front side, helping them with, determining how to survive and how to thrive while changing solutions or changing economics. And so there's a lot there that changes your business model, changes your business plan. Some businesses are thriving during something like this. How do we help our business clients thrive in the midst of a general market that is crashing? That's all the things that we have to do.
Joshua Feinberg (26:00):
Yeah, no, that's excellent. It's the advisory role of being able to get out of spending all your time on data processing, data coding, and data extraction. It can also elevate and provide meaningful advice and insight into your client's businesses.
Caleb Jenkins (26:17):
Now, the one thing I would say; maybe I'm a little bit unique on this, but
Caleb Jenkins (26:24):
It helps a ton to know that data entry side, and it helps a ton to know the actual nuts and bolts side so that when you're asked a question, you can give the specific answer, but you don't have to dwell on that specific answer. You can then bring it back to a higher-level area. So if you have no idea about what's being asked, you probably don't have any role in the boardroom. Start with experience from the ground up, get involved there, and then go forward and have both sides where you can intelligently advise them on technology solutions and business solutions and planning for future technology and business. Yep. Excellent. Excellent.
That’s a well-thought-out way to think through where everyone should be headed in the next three to five years. What's the best way for someone to learn more about your firm and learn more about you and connect with you?
Caleb Jenkins (27:35):
For our firm, I would say our website: https://www.rljfinancial.com/. For getting a hold of me or finding out about me, connect with my own Twitter. My handle is Caleb L Jenkins -- probably the best way to get a hold of me is to follow me. You can also follow me on or connect with me on LinkedIn. I'm on Facebook too. So feel free to reach out to me there. But those ways are probably the best ways you can contact me. But if you want to just learn about me, connect with me, follow me on social media. And that's a great way to learn because I try to share things and try to be a resource to help others. So I'm all about trying to help everybody thrive on this.
Joshua Feinberg (28:31):
It isn't just about me. Education builds trust. I’m a huge, huge believer in all of that, but this has been fantastic, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your 11 plus years of experience in accounting and QuickBooks. Going back to using it as a kid and tracking the businesses that inspired you to get to where you are today. This has been tremendously valuable, and I know many people will learn a lot from watching this.
Cool. Yeah, it's been great to do this with you. So thanks. Thanks for inviting me to be on here today,
and thanks for helping us as well. It's been terrific. I wish you great success in your practice and stay safe. Thank you.
Podcast Announcer (29:15):
Thanks for listening to this episode of the AI in Accounting Podcast. To subscribe and leave a review, check us out at blog.vic.ai or wherever you like to consume podcast episodes, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and YouTube.
What's your favorite QuickBooks Online tip? And what did you find most valuable from Caleb Jenkins's podcast interview? Let us know in the Comments section below.
And if you're serious about taking your QuickBooks Online knowledge to the next level, download the free eBook: QuickBooks Online and the Emerging Outsourced Accounting Practice.